UPDATE | Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner will make a second visit to Australia starting Thursday May 24, 2012 – and this time we'll be going on a test flight! Click here for all the details.
PREVIOUS | There's no public access to Boeing's next-generation 787 Dreamliner during its Qantas-hosted visit to Sydney and Melbourne, but Australian Business Traveller has the next best thing: on-the-ground and in-the-plane pictures of what's inside the first 787 to visit Australia.
Why do we care about the 787? Because the Boeing 787 is great news for business travellers, with a more comfortable cabin, fresher air that's less dehydrating, bigger windows with automatic tinting and the extra-spacious Boeing Sky Interior.
The media scrum at Qantas' Sydney Airport HQ started early this morning (we're talking 6.30am early) to see the 787 on Australian shores for the first time.
Rather than one of the actual Qantas or Jetstar 787s -- they're due for delivery starting 2013, so they haven't been built yet -- Boeing brought over one of its test aircraft decked out in company colours.
And here it is sitting in one of Qantas' Sydney hangars, with Qantas and Jetstar decals attached, waiting for the press conference to begin.
The tight confines of the hanger made it hard to grab a single sweeping shot of the 787, but then again, it also made for some dramatic angles of this beguilingly curvaceous plane.
Jetstar will be the first Australian airline to fly the 787, in the shape of the 787-8 model, and plans to run the Dreamliner between Auckland and Singapore and other routes including Honolulu.
Qantas confirmed that the 787-8 will sport two-class layout of economy and business class with 300 seats, although it likely won't be seen until the middle of 2013 (the most recent official line has been ‘early 2013’ but during a pre-briefing chat this morning Qantas CEO Alan Joyce let slip with ‘mid-2013'.)
Jetstar has 15 of the 787-8 version on order. Once they arrive, Jetstar's Airbus A330s will be handed down -- or, rather, up? -- to Qantas, to replace the aging and less fuel-efficient Boeing 767s.
(And even further down the track, Qantas will get some of Jetstar's 787-8s for domestic service, ranging from the 'golden triangle' of Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne to the cross-country leg from the east coast to Perth.)
But today was more about Qantas than Jetstar, of course, and Alan Joyce is all smiles about the prospect of that Qantas sticker on the plane turning into the full Red Roo paint job -- which he says will "hopefully" happen in 2015.
(The Jetstar sticker is on the other side of the Dreamliner, in case you were wondering.)
"Isn't it fantastic?" Joyce enthused (rather rhetorically) to Australian Business Traveller as we stood next to the sleek 787. “This is a real game-changer, it’s a magnificent aircraft and it was worth the wait.”
Once Qantas' own 787s arrive, Joyce says they'll be put to work on the Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth route, which currently sees Qantas' long-range Boeing 747-400ER planes.
These will be the longer 'stretched' 787-9 version, which be fitted with 275 seats across economy, premium economy and business class.
(Check out our article on when and where Qantas and Jetstar will get the 787 for more on times and dates.)
With the obligatory speeches and media Q&A done, Boeing 787 veep Mike Sinnett presented Alan Joyce and Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan with these commemorative carbon fibre plaques – which are actually the window cut-outs from the Dreamliner's composite fuselage.
(We asked Sinnett for one, he told us they're free with every purchase of a Dreamliner – so all we need is $195 million. Donations to our Paypal account will be gratefully accepted.)
If we can't afford our own Dreamliner, at least we can take a close look at one of Boeing's.
And this isn't just any Dreamliner -- it's the very first Boeing 787 to take flight (that's rego N787BA or serial number ZA001 if you follow that sort of thing.)
Sinnett tells us this particular aircraft has seen some 2,000 hours of flight testing "and has been at every corner of the test envelope".
Which is why it's kitted out with all kinds of test equipment instead of creature comforts like, you know, seats.
Actually there are some seats -- these are for the 30-odd Boeing engineers who travel with the Dreamliner monitoring its performance, even now that it's officially entered service.
Jessica is one of those fortunate engineers picked for the Dreamliner's down under tour, and she tells Australian Business Traveller that she's looking forward to riding in a 'proper' 787, with seats and video screens and all those things, one day soon.
As for this particular aircraft: its job is almost done. A dozen more flights at most and it'll be retired -- but rather than being put out to pasture, we're told it's tipped to go on display at The Smithsonian Institute.
Most of the test gear is in the back half of the aircraft, with six large tanks of water for ballast (three per side) at the front.
One of the 787's most visible design traits are the unusual scalloped edges on the mighty Rolls-Royce engines.
These perform a neat two-for-one trick of increasing fuel efficiency while reducing noise.
That means a quieter journey for you in the cabin, and (hopefully) fewer complaints from residents living near airports (including those who bought a house knowing there was this big airport thing across the road and still have a whinge, but don't get us started...). Look for many more next-generation engines to sport similar designs.
And while we're hanging around the wing, notice the flaps? These are built in Melbourne, at Boeing's Aerostructures Australia plant in Fishermans Bend.
Like much of the rest of the 787 they're made from cutting-edge composite materials, rather than the metal used on previous aircraft.
Composites make this next-gen jetliner lighter (which boosts fuel efficiency, in total it drinks 20% less juice) and less prone to fatigue and corrosion (making for lower on-going maintenance costs.)
They're also the secret to the 787's swooping, dramatically raked wings, which Boeing trumpets as "the most aerodynamically efficient wings in commercial service today".
Here's what they look like on the ground...
... but when the 787 takes flight they flex up and out.
Impressive stuff. But for passengers, the real advantage is that the composite fuselage -- which is made from a few completely tubular sections cast and baked whole in an oven -- is far stronger than metal.
This means its can be pressurised to a lower level -- equivalent to 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of 7,500 to 8,000 feet, which Boeing claims is the primary cause of a range of in-flight headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and even nausea. The Dreamliner's cabin will also carry higher humidity levels.
"This all makes passengers feel better" says Boeing's 787 uber-boffin Mike Sinnett. "Being cost-effective and fuel efficient wouldn't mean anything if passengers didn't enjoy riding in the airplane."
So what's the Dreamliner on an actual flight? Check out our picture-laden flight review of ANA's Boeing 787.
We have to agree with Alan Joyce: the Boeing 787 will indeed be worth the wait!
Also in AusBT's extensive coverage of Boeing 787 Dreamliner...
Bothersome sliding window shades begone! Boeing’s newly-minted 787 Dreamliner sports ‘digital window tinting’ which makes the glass go dark at the touch of a button. Read more...
Check out the cool and potentially shagadelhic upstairs 'loft' space used by pilot and flight attendants during their scheduled breaks from duty on the 787. Read more...
Japanese airline ANA is Boeing's launch customer for the 787 Dreamliner – step right up for a 'virtual photo tour' of ANA's factory-fresh 787 which we snapped during Boeing's launch of the Dreamliner in Seattle. Read more...
What's it like to fly in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner? We visited Tokyo as a guest of ANA for a special 90 minute ‘excursion flight’ from Narita which provided a taste of what the Dreamliner will deliver for travellers (and yes, there's much more than rainbow-like cabin lighting). Read more...
Qantas will buy 50 Boeing 787s, but the first deliveries aren't expected until mid-2013 – and those will be for budget offshoot Jetstar. The Red Roo won't get its own Dreamliners until as late as 2016, but you'll eventually see the 787 on domestic as well as international flights. Read more...
- Qantas plans to fly the Boeing 787 from Sydney to Dallas
- Jetstar to run 787 Dreamliner on Auckland-Singapore flights
- Qantas teases on super-stretched Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner
- Fan pays $32,700 for seat on first ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight
- Why business travellers will love the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Boeing’s 787 nixes first class for business, premium economy
- Boeing chooses Android for 787 Dreamliner's entertainment system
- United aims for first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights by mid-2012
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.